Mercury Falling

Columbus, OH, US
Polaris Amphitheaterwith Lyle Lovett
Last night's show at Polaris Amphitheater...

The one heard most often about opening act Lyle Lovett is that he's a ''critic's darling''. That essentially means that he puts out albums that are tremendously well-received, with exquisitely crafted lyrics and fine musicianship, but that barely make a dent on the charts.

Sting, on the other hand, is a cliche. He rode the punk wave to fame and glory as an angry young man in the late '70s, but now he likes to claim that jazz was always his true love. Of course, having made millions from rock'n'roll, he can easily afford such indulgences.

Going hand-in-hand with his devotion to jazz is his support of nearly every cause that comes around the bend. Ah yes, the perfect image of a sophisticated, sensitive man. As Homer Simpson said in The Simpsons, ''Rock stars. Is there anything they don't know?''

Befitting his current introspective outlook on life, Sting opened the show with 'Hounds of Winter' followed by 'I Hung My Head'. Two rather morose songs off his latest album that deal with ''man's inhumanity to man''. For opening songs, they also failed to generate much excitement.In fact, there seemed to be an inverse relationship between the amount of jazz influence in any given song and audience reaction.

The old Police standards like 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Roxanne' brought the crowd roaring to its feet. Newer material like 'I Was Brought To My Senses' planted them right back in their seats.Back to Lyle Lovett.

Yes, he was married to Julia Roberts. Yes, he and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) of Seinfeld both go for the same hair look. But, if that's all you know about Lyle Lovett, you're missing a great deal. It was apparent from the start of Lovett's set that he takes a unique approach to performing. His 8-piece band was not only dressed to the nines, but it included an instrument rarely seen at Polaris - a cello. After the first few songs, the need for such a large group became quite apparent - anything less would have severely cramped his all-encompassing, eclectic style.

Lovett incorporates a little of everything in his music: Texas Swing, country and western, pop and gospel.

One of the highlights of the show came during 'You Can't Resist It'. As unbelievable as it may sound, the song contained an extended cello solo. The cellist covered all the bases, playing classically styled portions, then sawing away like some sort of demented, cello-playing Eddie Van Halen. To top it all off, at the end of the solo he jumped down from an amplifier and smashed his ''axe'' to pieces (just kidding about that last).

(c) The Colombus Dispatch by Jim Spriggs